On this day in history : 9th December 1960 – The very first episode of Coronation Street is aired at 7pm on ITV – and is watched by 7.7 million people….

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Fair use

The soap, which was first broadcast in black and white, was only ever meant to have run for 13 episodes – but is now Britain’s longest running soap, having been aired nearly 10,000 times….

The brainchild of scriptwriter Tony Warren of Granada TV, the idea was at first rejected by the TV station’s founder, Sidney Bernstein…. However, producer Harry Elton persuaded Bernstein to run a 13 part pilot series….within 6 months it had become the most watched TV show in Britain…. It has since become a true British institution and part of our culture – even the Queen watches! Many fans around the world can also view it; it has been shown in Australia since 1963 and from 1964 in New Zealand…. It can be seen in Canada, the USA, South Africa and the Republic of Ireland…. Satellite channels make it available in countries such as Cyprus and Malta – and also in Asia and the Middle East….

The soap focuses on the everyday life of working class folk in Weatherfield, a fictional town based on Salford, Manchester…. In its fictional history The Street was built in 1902 as a tribute to the Coronation of King Edward VII….

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Cast of Coronation Street, 1960 – Fair use

The very first words spoken in the first episode – “Now the next thing you’ve got to do is get a sign writer in” – were by the character Elsie Lappin as she handed over the reins of the corner shop to Florrie Lindsey…. Also in this first episode Elsie Tanner nags her 18-year-old son, Dennis, who has just served a prison sentence, to get a job…. She also discovers her daughter, Linda, has split up with her husband…. Meanwhile, 21-year-old Ken Barlow argues with his father, Frank, at the dinner table…. The rebellious Ken was later to cause outrage in a 1961 episode when he uttered the first swear word of the soap – “bloody” – which received 83 complaints from viewers….

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Ken Barlow in the first episode, 1960 – Fair use

The most watched episode ever was on Christmas Day 1987 – when 26.6 million tuned in to watch Hilda Ogden say “goodbye” to the Rovers…. Not bad viewing figures considering the negative reception it had from the media back in 1960…. The Mirror reported on it as “doomed from the outset”….as it objected to the depressing view of terraced houses with their smokey chimneys ~ and the dreary signature tune…. Even Granada’s general manager said he “couldn’t find a single redeeming quality” about it…. But obviously the British public thought differently….

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Image from Wikimedia

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